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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: April 17, 2016, 12:44:37 PM
Also, and this I think to be very important, is the matter of baseline budgeting.
BB uses nominal dollars i.e. includes projected inflation. For simplistic illustration $100 in year one with 10% inflation is $110 in year two and this is calculated as neutral in constant dollars.
Thus the nominal dollar increases of the 5 and 10 year plans (remember when we used to laugh at the Soviet Empire for its central planning with 5 and 10 year plans?) in place when Reagan took office became REAL increases as Volcker's policies aided and abetted by the increase in supply due to the tax rate cuts decreased inflation far more rapidly than anyone except the supply-siders and the monetarists predicted.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey
on: April 17, 2016, 12:30:38 PM
I just got back from Germany yesterday and had a chance to converse at dinner the night before about the prosecution (with Merkel signing off on it) of the German comic for insulting Erdogan.
Though I have been rather limited to news access while gone, I gather that Merkel's logic is that this is necessary to keep the deal with Turkey blocking further invasion of Europe/Germany going (at the cost of billions of Euros btw).
Here's a thought-- maybe we should be making Turkey worry about the continuation of its status in NATO. Russian is making moves in the Caucusus region as well as Turkey and Turkey may come to be glad to its NATO protection.
Now that we are thinking of it, is it a good idea for NATO (i.e. the US and the Euro dwarves) to be in mutual defense relationship with Turkey?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Paglia: Feminists have abortion wrong
on: April 07, 2016, 02:40:57 PM
Like stumbling twin mastodons, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton fell into the abortion tar pit this past week. Trump blundered his way through a manic inquisition about abortion by MSNBC’s resident woodpecker, Chris Matthews, while Hillary committed an unforced error on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where she referred to the fetus as an “unborn person,” scandalizing the vast pro-choice lobby, who treat all attempts to “humanize” the fetus as a diabolical threat to reproductive rights.
While the Hillary flap was merely a blip, given the consistency of her pro-choice views over time, Trump’s clumsy performance was a fiasco, exposing in his fiat that women should face “some sort of punishment” for illegal abortions how little he had thought about one of the major issues in American public life over the past 40 years. Following his supercilious mishandling of the controversy over his campaign manager’s crude yanking of a woman reporter’s arm, Trump’s MSNBC flame-out was a big fat gift to Democratic strategists, who love to tub-thump about the Republican “war on women”—a tired cliché that is as substance-less as a druggy mirage but that the inept GOP has never been able to counter.
Then this week Hillary raised eyebrows when she was asked by conservative co-host Candace Bure on ABC’s “The View” if she believes someone can be both a feminist and against abortion. “Absolutely,” Hillary replied, possibly not realizing the implications of what she was saying: “Of course you can be a feminist and be pro-life.” Was this an election-year pivot toward conservative women, like Hillary’s fantastical praise of Nancy Reagan as an AIDS activist? If it was rooted in genuine conviction, why have we not heard a word about it before? Hillary is usually wedded cheek-by-jowl with the old-guard feminist establishment.
The real issue is that U.S. politics have been entangled and strangled for far too long by the rote histrionics of the abortion wars, which have raged since Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that defined abortion as a woman’s constitutional right under the 14th Amendment. While I am firmly pro-choice and support unrestricted access to abortion, I have been disturbed and repelled for decades by the way reproductive rights have become an ideological tool ruthlessly exploited by my own party, the Democrats, to inflame passions, raise money, and drive voting.
This mercenary process began with the Senate confirmation hearings for three Supreme Court candidates nominated by Republican presidents: Robert Bork in 1987, David Souter in 1990, and Clarence Thomas in 1991. (Bork was rejected, while Souter and Thomas were approved.) Those hearings became freak shows of feminist fanaticism, culminating in the elevation to martyr status of Anita Hill, whose charges of sexual harassment against Thomas still seem to me flimsy and overblown (and effectively neutralized by Hill’s following Thomas to another job). Abortion was the not-so-hidden motivation of the Democratic operatives who pushed a reluctant Hill forward and fanned the flames in the then monochromatically liberal mainstream media. It was that flagrant abuse of the Senate confirmation process that sparked the meteoric rise of conservative talk radio, led by Rush Limbaugh, who provided an alternative voice in what was then (pre-Web) a homogenized media universe.
Abortion has been central to the agenda of second-wave feminism since the 1972 issue of Ms. Magazine, which contained a splashy declaration, “We have had abortions,” signed by 53 prominent American women. A recurrent rubric of contemporary feminism is Gloria Steinem’s snide jibe (which she claims to have heard from an old Irish woman taxi driver in Boston), “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” But Steinem herself can be credited or blamed for having turned abortion into a sacrament, promoted with the same religiosity that she and her colleagues condemn in their devoutly Christian opponents.
First-wave feminism, born in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention in upstate New York, was focused on property rights and on winning the vote, achieved by ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Abortion entered the feminist canon with Margaret Sanger’s bold campaign for birth control, a violation of the repressive Comstock Act for which she was arrested in 1914. Her organization, the American Birth Control League, founded in 1921, later became Planned Parenthood, which remains a lightning-rod for controversy because of its lavish federal funding. Sanger remains a heroine to many feminists, including me, despite her troubling association with eugenics, a program (also adopted by the Nazis) of now discredited techniques like sterilization to purify and strengthen the human gene pool. It was partly because of Sanger’s pioneering precedent that I joined Planned Parenthood and contributed to it for many years—until I realized, to my disillusion, how it had become a covert arm of the Democratic party.
My position on abortion is contained in my manifesto, “No Law in the Arena,” from my second essay collection, “Vamps & Tramps” (1994): “Women’s modern liberation is inextricably linked to their ability to control reproduction, which has enslaved them from the origin of the species.” However, I argue that our real oppressor is not men or society but nature—the biological imperative that second-wave feminism and campus gender studies still refuse to acknowledge. Sex is nature’s way—coercive, prankish, and pleasurable–of ensuring survival of the species. But in eras of overpopulation, those pleasures spill into a multitude of directions to slow or halt procreation—which is why I maintain that homosexuality is not a violation of natural law but its fulfillment, when history wills it.
Despite my pro-abortion stance (I call the term pro-choice “a cowardly euphemism”), I profoundly respect the pro-life viewpoint, which I think has the moral high ground. I wrote in “No Law in the Arena”: “We career women are arguing from expedience: it is personally and professionally inconvenient or onerous to bear an unwanted child. The pro-life movement, in contrast, is arguing that every conception is sacred and that society has a responsibility to protect the defenseless.” The silence from second-wave feminists about the ethical ambiguities in their pro-choice belief system has been deafening. The one exception is Naomi Wolf, with whom I have disagreed about many issues. But Wolf showed admirable courage in questioning abortion in her 1995 essay, “Our Bodies, Our Souls,” which was reprinted at the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade by the New Statesman in London three years ago.
That a pro-life wing of feminism is possible is proved by this thoughtful letter recently sent to me at Salon by Katherine Carlson in Calgary, Canada:
Many women like myself (a gay liberal) are deeply upset over the abortion issue. Ultrasound technology has allowed us to see into the womb like never before, and the obvious face of humanity is clear. I totally respected your take on abortion precisely because you never tried to dehumanize the preborn vulnerable. You were clearly pro-choice but made the harsh reality of the decision very clear.
I was thrilled when they took down Gloria Steinem’s interview on Lands’ End. To me, she is someone who tried to normalize abortion, and I despise her for it. The Democrats have become callous and extreme on the issue, and I feel completely shut out. And obviously, I am no right-winger. I have listened to the testimony of phenomenal women who have survived abortion attempts and were left to die (were saved only because some took their Hippocratic oath seriously).
I am tired of being bullied by women who equate women’s equality with abortion on demand. I know some women who use abortion as a method of sex selection and it rattles me to my core.
If you ever decide to write a piece on silenced women like myself, I would be entirely grateful.
I totally agree with Carlson that pro-choice Democrats have become “callous and extreme” about abortion. There is a moral hollowness at the core of Western careerist feminism, a bourgeois secular code that sees children as an obstruction to self-realization or as a management problem to be farmed out to working-class nannies.
Liberals routinely delude themselves with shrill propaganda about the motivation of “anti-woman” pro-life supporters. Hillary deals in those smears as her stock in trade: for example, while campaigning last week, she said in the context of Trump’s comments on abortion, “Women’s health is under assault in America”—as if difficulty in obtaining an abortion is more of an assault than the grisly intervention required for surgical termination of a pregnancy. Who is the real victim here?
Or we have Gail Collins, former editorial page head at the New York Times, asserting last week in her column, “Trump, Truth, and Abortion,” “In reality, the anti-abortion movement is grounded on the idea that sex outside of marriage is a sin….It’s the sex, at bottom, that they oppose.” I saw red: where the hell were these middlebrow Steinem feminists of the prestige Manhattan media during the pro-sex insurgency of my rebel wing of feminism during the 1990s? Suddenly, two decades later, Collins is waving the sex flag? Give me a break!
To project sex phobia onto all pro-lifers is vulgar. Although I am an atheist who worships only great nature, I recognize the superior moral beauty of religious doctrine that defends the sanctity of life. The quality of idea and language in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example, exceeds anything in grimly utilitarian feminism. In regard to the Commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” the Catechism says: “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God….God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being” (#2258). Or this: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life” (#2270).
Which embodies the more authentic humanism in this area—the Catholic Catechism or pro-choice feminism? If the latter, then we have much work to do to develop feminism philosophically. In “No Law in the Arena,” I argued from the point of view of pre-Christian paganism, when abortion was accepted and widespread: “My code of modern Amazonism says that nature’s fascist scheme of menstruation and procreation should be defied, as a gross infringement of woman’s free will….As a libertarian, I support unrestricted access to abortion because I have reasoned that my absolute right to my body takes precedence over the brute claims of mother nature, who wants to reduce women to their animal function as breeders.”
There are abundant contradictions in a liberal feminism that supports abortion yet opposes capital punishment. The violence intrinsic to abortion cannot be wished away by magical thinking. As I wrote: “Abortion pits the stronger against the weaker, and only one survives.” My program is more ideologically consistent, because I vigorously support abortion but also call for the death penalty for horrific crimes such as political assassination or serial rape-murder. However, the ultimate issue in the abortion debate is that, in a modern democracy, law and government must remain neutral toward religion, which cannot impose its expectations or values on non-believers.
In an in-depth piece in the Boston Globe two years ago, Ruth Graham summarizes one view of the controversial emerging concept of fetal rights in cases where a pregnant woman has been attacked or killed: “It is progressives who have historically pushed to expand civil rights, yet who now find themselves concerned about the expansion of rights to fetuses.” Progressives need to do some soul-searching about their reflex rhetoric in demeaning the pro-life cause. A liberal credo that is variously anti-war, anti-fur, vegan, and committed to environmental protection of endangered species like the sage grouse or spotted owl should not be so stridently withholding its imagination and compassion from the unborn.
Camille Paglia is the University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Boko Haram turns captured women/girls into bombers
on: April 07, 2016, 12:46:31 PM
INAWAO REFUGEE CAMP, Cameroon — Hold the bomb under your armpit to keep it steady, the women and girls were taught.
Sever your enemy’s head from behind, to minimize struggling.
“If you cut from the back of the neck, they die faster,” said Rahila Amos, a Nigerian grandmother describing the meticulous instruction she received from Boko Haram to become a suicide bomber.
Of all the many horrors of Boko Haram’s rampage across West Africa — the attacks on mosques, churches and schools; the mass killings of civilians; the entire villages left in ashes after militants tear through — one of the most baffling has been its ability to turn captured women and girls into killers.
Boko Haram, one of the world’s deadliest extremist groups, has used at least 105 women and girls in suicide attacks since June 2014, when a woman set off a bomb at an army barracks in Nigeria, according to The Long War Journal, which tracks terrorist activity.
Since then, women and girls, often with bombs hidden in baskets or under their clothes, have killed hundreds of people in attacks on fish and vegetable markets, schools, a river dock and even camps for people who have fled their homes to escape the violence.
“This isn’t something you can defeat or eradicate outright,” said Issa Tchiroma Bakary, the minister of communications in Cameroon, where 22 female suicide bombers were identified since the start of this year. “You don’t know who is who. When you see a young girl moving toward you, you don’t know if she’s hiding a bomb.”
Soldiers cannot open fire on every woman or girl who looks suspicious, he added. “They know where we have the Achilles’ heel,” Mr. Bakary said of Boko Haram.
Boko Haram’s abuse of women first shocked the world two years ago, when it stormed a school in Nigeria and fled with about 300 girls, many of whom were never found. Hundreds of other women and girls have been abducted, imprisoned, raped and sometimes intentionally impregnated, perhaps with the goal of creating a new generation of fighters.
Ms. Amos, 47, said the fighters had come to her village in the morning, firing weapons as they spilled out of cars and rounded up women and children.
Not long after, Ms. Amos, a Christian, said she was forced to enroll in Boko Haram’s classes on its version of Islam, a first step on her way toward being taught the art of suicide bombing.
After months of training, Ms. Amos said she was finally able to escape her captors one day when they had assembled for evening preaching. She stayed behind, gathering two of her young children and a grandchild so they could make a run for the Cameroonian border.
“I don’t want to take a bomb,” she said inside this refugee camp in Cameroon that stretches across a vast landscape dotted by tents and mud huts.
The authorities in Cameroon and Nigeria said that many of the experiences detailed by Ms. Amos matched the accounts of other women and girls who have escaped Boko Haram, or who have been arrested before they could detonate bombs. Ms. Amos’s assertions are also strikingly similar to details recounted by other freed women and girls, including descriptions of the funeral rites performed before female bombers were sent on missions.
The accounts offer insight into how Boko Haram, despite being under military pressure from a multinational campaign to wipe it out, has been able to strike fear across an expansive battlefield that now includes Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
No longer able to control the territory as tightly it once did, Boko Haram is sending out women and young girls as newly minted terrorists who can inflict a devastating toll.
Col. Didier Badjeck, a Cameroon defense spokesman, said that after soldiers had chased Boko Haram out of villages in recent weeks, they found homes that had been used as prisons for the women and girls. He said female hostages had reported being trained during their captivity — both in the Quran and in violence.
“They are training them to maximize the number of victims,” Colonel Badjeck said. “We are sure about it.”
Boko Haram often sends male fighters to set upon mosques. But last month, a woman dressed as a man set off her explosives during morning prayers in a village in northeastern Nigeria. Another woman was waiting outside the mosque, and as people fled the first blast, she detonated her own explosives as well. In all, at least 24 people were killed.
Officials inspected a mosque in Nigeria on March 16 after two female suicide bombers killed at least 24 people. Credit Associated Press
Bombings by women have become so widespread that even humanitarian groups are rethinking how they distribute food, water and other help to them. What if one of the women is hiding a bomb?
Continue reading the main story
Boko Haram Falls Victim to a Food Crisis It Created MARCH 4, 2016
U.S. Plans to Put Advisers on Front Lines of Nigeria’s War on Boko Haram FEB. 25, 2016
Nigerian Women Freed From Boko Haram Face Rejection at Home FEB. 16, 2016
Military Victories Over Boko Haram Mean Little to Nigerians JAN. 15, 2016
Boko Haram Ranked Ahead of ISIS for Deadliest Terror Group NOV. 18, 2015
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In Cameroon, many of the recent bombings have been carried out by girls in their early teens, leaving officials and analysts to wonder whether the girls were aware they were carrying bombs. Yet some of the bombers in recent attacks in Nigeria have been found to wear their hair pulled back from the face — a hairstyle reserved for burial rites, a sign they were ready to die.
But cracks are starting to show in the Boko Haram suicide-training system. In February, a girl sent to bomb a village in the Far North Region of Cameroon dropped her explosives and ran to the authorities instead. Her information led to a major raid on Boko Haram fighters.
In northeastern Nigeria in February, three girls with bombs were sent into a camp for Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram. Two of the girls detonated their bombs, killing nearly 60 people there. But the third girl spotted her parents among the desperate people inside the camp. Overwhelmed, officials said, she threw her explosives in the bush.
Boko Haram, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State last year, has abducted as many as 2,000 women and children, both girls and boys, since 2012, according a recent report from humanitarian groups. Young boys have been used as bombers, too.
In many ways, female bombers are ideal weapons. At security points run by men, they are often searched less thoroughly, if at all. Tucked under the bunched fabric of dresses or religious gowns, explosives are easy to conceal.
Female suicide bombers have been a trademark of extremists for decades. In the Chechnya conflict, they were nicknamed black widows. In Sri Lanka, they fought with the Tamil Tigers. In her book, “Bombshell: Women and Terrorism,” Mia Bloom estimates that between 1985 and 2008, women committed a quarter of all suicide bombings.
One soldier who has engaged with Boko Haram said he believed that fighters must drug the girls’ food. Others who track the group question whether the bombs are remotely detonated.
According to Ms. Amos, Boko Haram’s use of women as weapons is a carefully thought-out strategy, one some of the women accept. Ms. Amos said that of the 30 or so female captives enrolled in training with her, seven girls were enthusiastic about carrying out suicide missions.
“It was a direct path to heaven,” she said the group was told.
Ms. Amos, now among the 58,000 residents of the Minawao Refugee Camp, described a system of grooming potential bombers that involved food deprivation and promises of eternal life, tactics that cults have used for decades.
She said that when Boko Haram stormed her hometown in 2014, her two brothers were shot dead. Her husband managed to flee with five of their children, but Ms. Amos did not make it out, and neither did two of their other young children and a grandchild. Boko Haram rounded them up with other women and children, putting them in a long ditch to contain them.
They stayed there for days, eating one meal a day of a corn paste made from powder. Finally a fighter arrived and asked a fateful question: Do you want to follow Christ, or do you want to be a Muslim?
The women all agreed to follow Islam, fearing they would be killed otherwise. Their training began.
Ms. Amos described a six-tiered daily education track for the women that she called Primary One, Primary Two and so on. The first two levels were Quranic training. Primary Three was training in suicide bombing and beheading. “How to kill a person and how to bomb a house,” she said.
“They told us if we came upon a group of 10 to 20 people to press this,” she said, speaking of a detonator.
The instruction given in the upper levels of the training — Primary Four, Five and Six — was a closely guarded secret among the fighters. Ms. Amos said she never learned what took place there.
Ms. Amos was lucky. Boko Haram fighters decided not to “marry” her, a euphemism for the rapes the group commits, because she already had a husband and children. She counted 14 women and four girls in her training classes who were not as fortunate.
Throughout her months in captivity, Ms. Amos was fed one meal a day and lost weight, a fact confirmed by her nephew living in the Minawao camp, who stared at her scrawny frame and said, “She used to be a big woman.”
Boko Haram incorporated the lack of food into the training, Ms. Amos said. Several months ago, she said, fighters rounded up the women and took them to an old factory to view a set of plump, well-fed girls who had plenty of food and water. Follow our ways, the fighters said, and you can have enough to eat, like these girls.
The girls, some of them crying, told Ms. Amos they were from Chibok, the Nigerian village where Boko Haram had captured the schoolgirls. American State Department and military officials said they would investigate the statements from Ms. Amos about the girls.
“They were very fat,” Ms. Amos said, compared with herself and the other women who were being held, “and they had lots of water.”
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Even POTH is waking up
on: April 07, 2016, 07:18:26 AM
Asian countries are increasingly pushing back against China’s sweeping territorial claims and bullying tactics in the South China Sea. On Sunday, a Japanese submarine made a port call in the Philippines for the first time in 15 years, a sign of growing security cooperation. Last week, Vietnam seized a Chinese ship for illegally entering its territorial waters, and Indonesia threatened to defend its own claims with F-16 fighter jets.
Meanwhile, President Obama used a meeting with President Xi Jinping last week to deliver what one administration official described as “a very direct and unvarnished earful” about how seriously Washington views China’s behavior. And on Monday the United States and the Philippines began annual war games that will certainly show that the Philippines can count on the United States to counter Beijing.
The South China Sea is rich in natural resources and serves as a vital waterway for $5 trillion in trade. The Chinese have been engaged in a campaign to transform contested reefs and rocks into artificial islands with airstrips and other military structures. This has alarmed neighboring countries, which have competing claims and fear that China will use these islands to interfere with navigation and other countries’ rights to fish and drill for oil and gas.
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One result of the rising friction is a new defense agreement that will allow the United States to station weapons and troops at five bases in the Philippines for the first time in more than 20 years. Another is a marked increase in regional military spending. The United States recently carried out two patrols by warships and aircraft into territory claimed by China and is planning a third.
The Philippines is challenging Beijing’s assertions of sovereignty over most of the South China Sea in the international arbitration court, and a decision is expected by the end of June. Although China ratified the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, guaranteeing unimpeded passage on the high seas for trade, fishing and oil exploration, it has refused to participate in the Philippine case. American officials worry that Beijing may reject the court ruling or even pre-emptively build up more islands.
The United States, which takes a neutral position on the competing claims, has pushed all countries, especially China, to stop militarizing land masses and adding to them. It has also promised to recognize the claims of whichever side wins the arbitration case. While there was no breakthrough in the Xi-Obama meeting, the Chinese president stressed his desire to work with the United States and “realize no conflicts or confrontation.” But some sort of confrontation seems increasingly likely as long as China refuses to resolve the maritime disputes peacefully.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Trump' illiteracy about the cost of US bases in Asia
on: April 06, 2016, 10:15:07 PM
April 6, 2016 7:24 p.m. ET
New Japanese laws took effect last week that empower Japan’s military to defend U.S. forces that come under attack, even if Japan isn’t targeted. Count this as one of many important facts Donald Trump overlooks when he blasts U.S. allies and proposes withdrawing from the Western Pacific.
“We take care of Japan, we take care of South Korea” and “we get virtually nothing” in return, Mr. Trump said last month. He threatens to renegotiate or abrogate the longstanding treaties under which the U.S. today bases some 50,000 troops in Japan and 28,000 in South Korea.
But these aren’t one-sided or unaffordable deals. Tokyo and Seoul now pay nearly half of local U.S. military costs—some $2 billion a year for Japan and $900 million for South Korea. The U.S. troops based there cost the U.S. taxpayer less than they would if they came home. And that’s without counting their value in sustaining decades of peace and prosperity in a region previously marked by catastrophic wars.
As a builder, Mr. Trump may be interested to know that the four largest U.S. military construction projects in the Pacific are costing U.S. taxpayers only $7 billion because Japan and South Korea are paying more than $30 billion. According to an April 2015 tally from U.S. Pacific Command, Seoul is providing 93% of the nearly $11 billion needed to expand Camp Humphreys, which is set to host almost all U.S. forces in Korea by 2017.
Tokyo is paying 94% of the nearly $5 billion needed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, in southern Japan, and 100% of the roughly $12 billion to replace the Futenma facility on the southwestern island of Okinawa, near the Senkaku Islands and Taiwan in the East China Sea. In an unprecedented move, Tokyo is even paying 36% of the $3 billion needed for new U.S. facilities on the central Pacific island of Guam, which is U.S. territory.
South Korea spends about 2.5% of GDP on defense, which is lower than America’s 3.5% but still in the world top 10. Its military, backed by universal male conscription, is the world’s front line against the nuclear arsenal, long-range missiles and global-proliferation racket of North Korea. Japan, which during the Cold War was the West’s chief defense against Soviet submarines in the Pacific, today is the leading local bulwark against Chinese domination of East Asia.
Spending 1% of GDP on defense is too little, but Japan has increased spending for four years running. Reformist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has built ties with the U.S., Southeast Asia, Australia and India without which China would waltz to regional hegemony.
At significant political cost, the Abe government reinterpreted Japan’s U.S.-imposed constitution to allow “collective self-defense,” paving the way for the new laws that took effect last week. Tokyo can now defend the U.S. against North Korean missiles. Whenever U.S. ships patrol the South China Sea, Chinese planners now must also account for Japan’s fleet, which is larger than Britain’s.
Mr. Abe and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have gone public in the past week praising the U.S. role in Asia and warning about the damage from a short-sighted withdrawal. Americans should understand that these countries are not free riders and forward deployments in Asia are crucial to U.S. security.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Riley: Minimum Wage
on: April 06, 2016, 07:08:27 PM
Democrats are routinely accused of taking black support for granted. They push policies without much concern for the potential negative impact on their black constituents, whom liberals reason will either vote Democratic or stay home.
To understand the basis of this criticism, look no further than the current debate over minimum-wage increases. For decades, the political left has argued that higher minimum wages would reduce poverty and income inequality. In reality, wage floors are nothing more than sops to organized labor. Most of the U.S. labor force isn’t organized, so labor unions use minimum-wage laws to limit the job competition from nonunionized workers. And Democrats support Big Labor’s agenda to keep the party’s campaign coffers filled.
This week California and New York, two states run by Democratic governors, announced plans to gradually increase the base wage to $15 per hour. California Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledged that there was no economic rationale for the increase, and the state finance department issued a report last year that said increasing the minimum wage would lead “to slower employment growth.” In the end, however, the progressive Democrat decided, much as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo must have, that other factors were more important. “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense,” Mr. Brown said recently. “But morally and socially and politically they make every sense.” The governor appears to have struggled with his conscience—and won.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. jobless rate in the fourth quarter of last year was 5%, but it was 9.1% for blacks and 10.9% for black residents of California—or more than double the 4.4% for whites in the Golden State. Black job seekers in New York fared better with a 7.7% unemployment rate at the end of last year, but it was still twice as high as the 3.8% rate for white New Yorkers and well above the state’s 4.8% average. A minimum-wage increase does nothing for people out of work other than make it more difficult for them to find a job.
Some workers may be better off under a higher minimum, but not everyone. Younger and less-experienced workers, who are disproportionately black, are especially vulnerable to mandatory wage increases, since their employers are more willing and able to reduce hours, cut benefits or mechanize a task in an effort to save money. The government can mandate that an unskilled worker be paid more money, but that won’t make the worker more productive or ensure that he keeps his job.
These so-called disemployment effects are played down by liberals, but they get to the crux of the problem with the policy. Most minimum-wage workers are neither poor nor the sole breadwinner of the family. Statistically, they are much more likely to be seniors staying busy in retirement, teenagers gaining work experience, or someone with young children working part-time until school lets out. What characterizes most poor households in the U.S. is a lack of workers—any workers—not people already in the labor force who earn too little. Any policy that reduces job prospects for the less-skilled is not reducing poverty and may well be exacerbating it.
Mr. Brown says higher minimum wages are about “economic justice” for the disadvantaged, and politicians going back many decades have similarly claimed to be looking out for the little guy. “The minimum wage laws were passed to help especially the unskilled, the teenagers, and the blacks,” wrote economic journalist Henry Hazlitt in 1979, four decades after the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act established the first federal minimum wage. “Is this helping the poor? Is it helping the unskilled worker? The results show that it is doing exactly the opposite.” Unfortunately, it still is.
An academic paper on the 2007 federal minimum-wage hike by William Even of Miami University in Ohio and David Macpherson of Trinity University in Texas detailed the effects on young blacks, who were by far hit hardest. The “employment losses for 16-to-24-year-old black males between 2007 and 2010 could have been nearly 50% lower had the federal and state minimum wages remained at the January 2007 level,” wrote the economists, adding that the “consequence of the minimum wage for this subgroup were more harmful than the consequences of the recession.”
None of this history would stop President Obama from praising the actions of New York and California this week and calling for Congress to legislate an even higher federal wage floor. Hillary Clinton, for her part, joined Mr. Cuomo at a rally in Manhattan on Monday to celebrate the new law. The sad irony is that black voters have been Mrs. Clinton’s firewall against an unexpectedly resilient Bernie Sanders. Blacks are looking out for Hillary, while she’s looking out for Big Labor. Mrs. Clinton and her fellow Democrats aren’t just taking black supporters for granted. They’re also taking them for a ride.
Mr. Riley, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and Journal contributor, is the author of “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed” (Encounter Books, 2014).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt comments
on: April 06, 2016, 06:49:29 PM
Cruz, Sanders, and the Road After Wisconsin
Originally published at the Washington Times
Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders both had very big wins on Tuesday in Wisconsin.
Cruz had the bigger victory. He won more delegates and, in a three-way race, by as big a margin as Sanders did in a two-way race.
The campaign season is weakening the frontrunners in both parties at a time when the favorites should be consolidating their support.
A large number of Republicans say they would not vote for Trump.
A large number of Sanders supporters say they would not vote for Clinton.
The Wisconsin victory will help both insurgents, Cruz and Sanders, raise more money.
In Sanders’s case, he is already out-raising Clinton and this victory will translate into even more online donors sending even more money. The internet is allowing non-establishment candidates to gather resources even if the major donors refuse to help them. Without the stream of $27 donations pouring in over the internet, Sanders could never have sustained his effort to defeat Clinton.
Wisconsin fatally undermined John Kasich as the alternative to Cruz to stop Trump. Kasich did not win a single delegate in an upper-midwest state which should have been tailor made for the Governor of Ohio.
The news media will increasingly ignore Kasich. His donors will dry up. He can stubbornly continue the fight (as I did for a good while in 2012), but he can't fight his way back into contention.
Cruz and Trump each face big challenges.
Cruz has a great technical campaign with solid professionals who have been building grassroots operations in every state. He is winning the guerrilla war to elect delegates pledged to Trump but loyal to Cruz for all procedural fights and for any votes after the first ballot at the convention.
If Trump can't win decisively before Cleveland, it is likely that Cruz will become the nominee on the second or third ballot.
Trump has to confront the crisis of what has up to now been a remarkable campaign. Reagan faced a similar crisis after he lost Iowa to Bush in 1980. There was a profound shakeup in the campaign as Nancy insisted that they needed a bigger, better team. Without that change, Reagan would not have won the nomination.
Trump's style has made him the frontrunner. It will now stop him from becoming the nominee if he is not able to grow and expand on his achievement.
Trump's very frugal focus on rallies, social media and television have carried him far. But they have also left him unprepared for the much more complex battle at the delegate level.
The New York primary will be an important test for both Trump and Cruz.
Trump has to win a big enough victory to clearly establish a path to 1,237 delegates. That means sweeping or almost sweeping New York.
Trump also has to move toward being more presidential and give several substantive speeches that are as strong his AIPAC speech.
Finally, Trump has to build on the convention organizing talent of his recent hire, Paul Manafort, and develop a grassroots delegate operation that can compete with Cruz.
Cruz has to target key New York districts and try to actually win them. Particularly in some of the overwhelmingly Democratic districts in New York City, he may be able to target the very small number of Republicans effectively. Every delegate Cruz could win in New York would be a blow Trump’s effort to regain momentum.
Cruz has to continue the intensely focused and organized grassroots delegate hunt that is currently serving him well in setting the stage for a shocking upset on the second or third ballot for the nomination if Trump can’t get to 1,237 before then.
Finally, Cruz has to gather up money and endorsements from the establishment wing of the party without becoming the “establishment” candidate himself. If voters think the establishment is coming to Cruz, he will be ok. If they think Cruz is moving toward the establishment, it could ruin his campaign.
One last prediction on the Republican side: the Republican nominee will be named Donald or Ted. No one else will emerge. The rules imposed by the Romney team were designed to create absolute control of the convention. They will now block the emergence of a new candidate.
For the convention to nominate a candidate, he or she must have earned majorities of the delegates from at least eight states before the first ballot. No one other than Trump and Cruz will have done that, and there is no provision to enter new names for nomination later on.
All the folks who are talking about changing the rules simply don't know what they are talking about.
The Rules Committee could propose changes, but they would have to go to the floor of the convention to be voted on by the delegates. More than 80 percent of the delegates will be for either Trump or Cruz. Why would Trump and Cruz agree to change the rules to encourage a new candidate?
Changing the rules to the disadvantage of both contestants is an absurd idea. It simply won't happen.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cruz calls
on: April 06, 2016, 05:31:43 PM
For the first time in recent history, California could decide the GOP nominee. Recent polls have shown the race here in the Golden State to be within the margin of error.
We need your help to bring a victory to Cruz on June 7th.
Volunteers from around the state have been calling their neighbors to spread the Senator’s conservative message. We hope you can join them by signing up to make calls from home on our i360 Call from Home System. By using the links below, you learn how to operate our call from home system as well as have thorough instructions, login details, and which survey you should use.
Instructions: Click Here
Script: Click Here
Once familiar with the system, we ask that you:
1. Forward these details to fellow supporters who want to join the effort.
2. Begin organizing call banks in your area.
With questions, please reach out to email@example.com
or for your own personal log in.
Please join our Facebook group by clicking the link below to stay connected with the team, volunteers, and be informed on campaign activities in the state. https://www.facebook.com/groups/TedCruzCalifornia/
Cruz for President
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Taranto: Cruz likely
on: April 06, 2016, 03:21:37 PM
By James Taranto
April 6, 2016 1:45 p.m. ET
“[Donald] Trump’s second-place finish to Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) in Tuesday’s Wisconsin Republican primary may represent no ordinary setback,” write the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty, Jose A. DelReal and Robert Costa. “It appears to be a pivot point—although it has yet to be seen whether the trajectory from here points downward or upward.”
That is an absolutely rock-solid analysis. The likelihood that it will be proved mistaken is zero, maybe less. As the Weekly Standard’s Mark Hemingway observes, it illustrates “why national political reporters are so indispensable.” Our column is a solo effort, so if our work shines a bit less brightly than that of the Postly Trio, please show a little forbearance.
Anyway, Cruz did win big in the Badger State, topping Trump by 13% of the total vote, better than his margin in any poll. The Real Clear Politics average had Texas’ junior senator up by just 4.7%, though that was skewed by a late outlying poll in which Trump led by 10%. Asked the name of the firm that came up with that result, its head replied: “Argh!”
Even more intense frustration was voiced by the Trump campaign, which put out a statement accusing “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” of illegally coordinating with the super PAC backing him, and added: “Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet—he is a Trojan horse.” The statement promised victory in New York and wrapped up by claiming: “Mr. Trump is the only candidate who can secure the delegates needed to win the Republican nomination and ultimately defeat Hillary Clinton, or whomever [sic] is the Democratic nominee.”
That last statement is factually if not grammatically correct—though it’s carefully hedged. In Wisconsin Cruz picked up 36 delegates to Trump’s six, putting Trump’s overall lead (again, as per RCP) at 743-517, with 171 for Marco Rubio and 143 for John Kasich. A majority is 1,237, and it is increasingly unlikely anyone will reach that threshold before the primaries end in June.
David Wasserman of FiveThirtyEight.com writes that Trump needs 58% of remaining delegates; by our calculations that means Cruz would need 85%. Wasserman observes this gives Trump (in contrast, we’d add, with Cruz) “a realistic path to a delegate majority.” So as a practical matter, Trump is indeed the only candidate who can secure a majority.
That doesn’t mean he’s likely to do so, and it doesn’t mean he’s the only candidate who can win a majority. This column is increasingly of the view that Cruz is the likeliest nominee, notwithstanding Trump’s delegate lead.
Andrew Prokop of the young-adult site Vox maps the road ahead for Trump:
He’d need wins (sometimes big wins) in Northeastern states like New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, and New Jersey. But even those victories wouldn’t be enough. He’d likely have to win the Indiana primary on May 3 too, and pick up a good share of delegates in proportional states like Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico.
Most importantly of all, there’s the biggest delegate prize—California, which votes on June 7 and will send 172 delegates to the convention. Since the vast majority of the state’s delegates are allotted winner-take-all in its 53 congressional districts (three per district), Trump would likely need to win consistently across this very diverse state to put him over the top.
All that is doable. But it’s difficult, and there’s little room for error. It is very plausible that Trump will end up falling short of the 1,237 delegates he needs—perhaps even quite a bit short.
As we write, ElectionBettingOdds.com puts the likelihood (based on bookmakers’ odds) of a “brokered convention”—i.e., of Trump’s coming up short—at 66.4%, or just under 2 in 3. The likelihood of Trump’s winning the nomination is 50.1%. Subtract the latter percentage from the former, and the betting markets reckon there’s 1 in 6 or better chance of Trump’s winning a brokered convention.
We’re with FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver in thinking that makes little sense:
If Trump doesn’t win on the first ballot, he’s probably [at an impossible disadvantage]. The basic reason is simple. Most of the 2,472 delegates with a vote in Cleveland probably aren’t going to like Trump. . . .
In most states, the process to select . . . delegates is separate from presidential balloting. In Massachusetts, for instance, Trump won 49 percent of the GOP vote on March 1—his highest share in any state to date—to earn 22 of the state’s 42 delegates. But the people who will serve as delegates haven’t been chosen yet. That will happen at a series of congressional district conventions later this month and then a Republican state meeting in May or June. According to Politico, most of those delegates are liable to favor Ted Cruz or John Kasich rather than Trump. Twenty-two of them will still be bound to Trump on the first ballot, but they can switch after that. The same story holds in a lot of other states: in Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina, for instance—also states that Trump won.
Trump’s delegate problems stem from two major issues. One is his lack of organization: Trump just recently hired a strategist to oversee his delegate-selection efforts; Cruz has been working on the process for months. The other is his lack of support from “party elites.” The people who attend state caucuses and conventions are mostly dyed-in-the-wool Republican regulars and insiders, a group that is vigorously opposed to Trump. Furthermore, some delegate slots are automatically given to party leaders and elected officials, another group that strongly opposes Trump, as evident in his lack of endorsements among them.
While it’s possible Kasich or another candidate could emerge victorious on a second or later ballot, Cruz would be at a decided advantage by virtue of having both won multiple primaries and worked the delegate-selection process assiduously.
The Trump camp’s answer to the prospect of losing at a contested convention has been bluster about violence and intimidation. Trump himself last month spoke of “riots” if he was denied the nomination, though he later equivocated. Now Politico reports Trump trickster Roger Stone “is threatening to make public the hotel room numbers of Republican National Convention delegates who switch from Trump to another candidate”:
“We’re going to have protests, demonstrations. We will disclose the hotels and the room numbers of those delegates who are directly involved in the steal,” Stone said Monday in a discussion with Stefan Molyneux on Freedomain Radio, as he alleged that Trump’s opponents planned to deny the democratic will of Republican primary voters.
“If you’re from Pennsylvania, we’ll tell you who the culprits are. We urge you to visit their hotel and find them. You have a right to discuss this, if you voted in the Pennsylvania primary, for example, and your votes are being disallowed,” Stone said.
Most Pennsylvania delegates, incidentally, arrive at the convention unbound. At any rate, this sounds like an empty threat, and one that would likely backfire even if carried out.
The last time he faced the prospect of venturing into hostile territory—when his rally in Chicago was overrun by left-wing disruptors—he ended up bugging out. If he fails to secure a majority of delegates, perhaps rather than endure defeat in Cleveland he will find a way to withdraw ungraciously before the convention.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Erdogan's one man Islamist show
on: April 05, 2016, 08:54:00 PM
Erdoğan's One-Man Islamist Show
by Burak Bekdil
Middle East Quarterly
Spring 2016 (view PDF)http://www.meforum.org/5879/erdogan-one-man-islamist-show
Be the first of your friends to like this.
Explosions rip through a group of protesters staging an anti-government peace rally in Ankara, October 2015, resulting in the worst ever single terror attack in Turkey's modern history. The upsurge in violence helped propel President Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) to a stronger showing in the November elections, but he did not receive enough votes to change the constitution.
Secular and liberal Turks sighed with premature relief when on June 7, 2015, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) lost its parliamentary majority in general elections for the first time since it came to power in November 2002. With 41 percent of the national vote (compared with 49.8 percent in the 2011 general elections), the AKP won eighteen fewer seats than necessary to form a single-party government in Turkey's 550-member parliament. More importantly, its parliamentary seats fell widely short of the minimum number needed to rewrite the constitution in the way Erdoğan wanted it so as to introduce an executive presidential system that would give him uncontrolled powers with few checks and balances, if any.
Undaunted by what looked like an election defeat, Erdoğan chose to toss the dice again. At his instructions, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu pretended to hold coalition negotiations with opposition parties while secretly laying the groundwork for snap elections. In Erdoğan's thinking, the loss of a few more seats would make no difference to AKP power, but re-winning a parliamentary majority would make the situation totally different. Then a terrible wave of violence gripped Turkey.
First, the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK), which had been fighting a guerrilla war from mountain hideouts in northern Iraq, declared an end to its unilateral ceasefire begun in 2013. Then on July 20, a Turkish suicide bomber killed more than thirty people at a pro-Kurdish gathering in the small town of Suruc. Claiming that the Turkish state had a secret role in the bombing, the PKK killed two policemen in the town of Ceylanpinar. The three-decades-old violence between the Turkish and Kurdish communities had suddenly roared back with a vengeance. In one of Turkey's bloodiest summers ever, more than a thousand PKK fighters and Turkish security officials were killed.
Then in October, ISIS attacked in the Turkish capital. Two suicide bombers, one Turkish the other Syrian, killed some one hundred people at a pro-peace rally in the heart of Ankara, the worst single terror attack in the country's modern history. By then, Erdoğan had already dissolved parliament and called for early elections on November 1, calculating that the wave of instability would push frightened voters toward single-party rule.
Erdoğan's gamble paid off. The elections gave the AKP a comfortable victory and a mandate to rule until 2019: 49.5 percent of the national vote, or 317 parliamentary seats, sufficient to form a single-party government but still short of the magical number of 330 necessary to bring a constitutional amendment up for referendum. Once again, political Islam had won in Turkey. But how, in a span of just five months, did a government mired in rising unemployment, economic slowdown, terror attacks, and soldiers' funerals succeed in increasing its national vote by about nine percentage points? A combination of factors offers some clues.
A Splintered Opposition
The AKP's renewed victory illustrates the hopelessly divided and polarized state of the Turkish political scene. To begin with, not all Kurds are PKK supporters. The summer-long violence between the PKK and the Turkish military seems to have won over those Kurds with relatively more loyalist sentiments toward Turkey as well as those who sympathize with the Islamist AKP for reasons of piety. This caused a shift of votes, measured at 1.4 percentage points, from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) to the AKP.
The AKP's renewed victory illustrates the hopelessly divided and polarized state of the Turkish political scene.
More importantly, the violence improved the AKP's position vis-à-vis the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which shares more or less the same voter base. In the June elections, some of the AKP's votes seem to have shifted to the MHP (which won 16.3 percent of the balloting overall), apparently due to nationalist disapproval of the AKP's peace overtures to the Kurds. Once they scrapped the peace process and launched an all-out war against the restive Kurdish minority, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu could boast of their newfound nationalist spirit. In the November elections, the MHP lost 4.1 percent—all of which apparently went to the AKP.
Add to this the disappearance from the political scene of two splinter parties, one with an Islamist and the other with nationalist manifestos, which had won 2 percent of the vote on June 7, allowing the AKP to pick up another 1.5 percent of the overall vote.
The opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) shares more or less the same voter base with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and gained strength in the June 2015 general elections. MHP leader Devlet Bahceli (left) sat down for inconclusive talks with prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (right) in August 2015, but as Turkey spiraled into violence, and Davutoglu's AKP party scrapped its peace process with the Kurds, the MHP lost ground in the November balloting.
Finally, in the June elections, some AKP voters apparently refrained from voting in the face of Erdoğan's lavish public lifestyle, his assertive unconstitutional intervention in party politics, and growing allegations of corruption and nepotism. Ipsos, the global market research company, found that nearly half of those who had abstained were AKP voters. Yet they returned to the ballot box in November to help their ailing party, earning the AKP another 2 percentage points. Was this "non-buyer's remorse" or something more troubling? Are Turks displaying a form of Stockholm syndrome in which hostages, psychologically beaten into submission, develop sympathy and positive feelings toward their oppressors?
Interestingly, a study released shortly before the November elections found that only a quarter of Turks were not afraid of Erdoğan; as many as 68.5 percent said they were. The research also found that even some of Erdoğan's own supporters were afraid of him. In any event, the turnout rate was nearly 4 percent higher in November than in June—half of which apparently went to the AKP.
Erdoğan's Road to an Elected Sultanate
Erdoğan has never hidden his ambitions to legitimize his de facto executive presidency. As he said in a 2015 speech,
There is a president with de facto power in the country, not a symbolic one. The president should conduct his duties for the nation directly but within his authority. Whether one accepts it or not, Turkey's administrative system has changed. Now, what should be done is to update this de facto situation in the legal framework of the constitution.
To legitimize his rule by changing the constitution, his AKP party needs at least 330 seats but has only 317. Since the November elections, all three of the major opposition parties have said that they would not support any AKP-sponsored amendment in favor of an executive presidential system. But in Turkish politics nothing is impossible.
The secular, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) is unlikely to be in favor of Erdoğan's sultanate-like presidential system under any scenario. The Nationalist Movement Party has firmly denied any potential support although it has cooperated with the AKP in some controversial legislative work in the past, such as a bill that legalized the Islamic headscarf on university campuses. That leaves the pro-Kurdish HDP as Erdoğan's only possible partner.
The Kurdish party's rhetoric on the presidential system has been tricky. It refused to support any presidential amendment "in a unitary Turkey" but does that mean it would withhold support from an AKP-sponsored presidential bill in a "federal Turkey?" A federal Turkey, meaning one with an autonomous Kurdish region, is the HDP's main objective. Thus it could find itself in a transactional relationship with the AKP for some degree of Kurdish autonomy in return for supporting Erdoğan's modern-day, elected sultanate.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is tirelessly seeking to rewrite the Turkish constitution to increase his control of the country in its entirety. While a study released shortly before the November elections found that more than 68 percent of Turks were afraid of him, his party still won a comfortable election victory and gained enough seats in parliament to form a single-party government although still short of the number needed to bring a constitutional amendment up for referendum.
For that to happen, the current wave of violence between Kurds and the Turkish military would have to come to a halt. At the beginning of 2016, there were no such signs, and what looked like a localized civil war, contained mainly to Kurdish-majority southeast Turkey, continued to claim lives daily. Worse, Erdoğan and the Davutoğlu government look less prone to any reconciliation. Even a call for peace could be deemed "terrorist propaganda."
In January, for example, prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into the host and the producer of a popular talk show on such charges. The move came after a caller, identifying herself as a schoolteacher, protested the civilian casualties during the security operations against the PKK. The caller was urging the public to raise its voice against the deaths of "unborn children, babies, and mothers." She did not
even mention the PKK. Shortly after that, Turkish police detained scores of academics for signing a declaration denouncing military operations against the PKK. In their declaration, the so-called traitors wrote that they refused to be "a party to the crime" and called on the government to halt what they said was a "massacre."
More than 1,100 Turkish and three hundred foreign academics signed the declaration, which Turkish prosecutors claimed "insulted the state" and engaged in "terrorist propaganda" on behalf of the Kurdish group. Erdoğan decried the signatories and called on the judiciary to act against this "treachery." Erdoğan said,
Just because they have titles such as professor [or] doctor in front of their names does not make them enlightened. These are dark people. They are villains and vile because those who side with the villains are villains themselves.
Alongside any fresh ceasefire—not likely but not altogether impossible—HDP will want renewed talks for a political solution to Turkey's Kurdish dilemma. Beginning in 2011, Erdoğan did enter into negotiations with the Kurds and convinced them to call for a ceasefire in 2013. He might try that again.
Davutoğlu often publicly presents a milder Islamist posture than Erdoğan.
But both Erdoğan and the Kurds would have less appetite this time for such a new political adventure. Kurds trust him less than they did between 2011 and 2013. At the same time, Erdoğan has discovered that he wins more votes if he plays to the nationalist Turkish constituencies rather than Kurdish ones. He will be more reluctant to shake hands with the Kurds than he was in 2013 and is able to read the election results of June and November 2015.
Erdoğan's ambitions also leave in limbo his right-hand man, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. In Turkey, the prime minister is the head of the executive while the president's constitutionally-defined role is largely symbolic. When Davutoğlu was campaigning to win more votes for the AKP in 2015, he was in a real sense campaigning to end his own political career as the chief executive of the country. There is some speculation that Davutoğlu, who often publicly presents a milder Islamist posture than the president, may eventually break with his patron and his authoritarian style, especially in light of the charges of corruption, favoritism and extravagance that beset the president. However, that expectation is too optimistic given Davutoğlu's character and devotion to ideology.
Since Davutoğlu was chosen by Erdoğan to succeed him as prime minister in the summer of 2014, he has alternated between conducting himself ethically and in a Machiavellian fashion. While he may even view himself as a paladin for advancing the interests of Turkey and Islam (or Islamism), he knows that in order to further these goals he must continue to serve the man whom he sees as the champion of Turkish Islamism, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He must, therefore, remain prime minister and, as such, must ignore the issues that challenge his ethical and religious side.
This helps explain why Davutoğlu repeatedly uses one particular word in public speeches: "dawa" (dava in Turkish) or the "political cause." His loyalty is not to the seat he occupies or to worldly ambitions but to the struggle for the advancement of Islamism under the Turkish banner, to the dawa. It is unlikely then to expect Davutoğlu to betray his boss or the dawa.
Turkey by the Numbers
In Turkish politics, Erdoğan remains unrivalled. There is no credible indication that any of the three opposition parties could increase their votes so as to threaten the AKP in the near future, and there is no internal rival for leadership. The main opposition Republican People's Party's returns seem to be stuck in neutral, at a mere 25.4 percent in the November 2015 balloting, down marginally from 25.9 in 2011. The nationalist MHP is in the midst of a chaotic leadership race while its national figures edge toward a number below the 10 percent threshold necessary for parliamentary representation (11.7 percent in the November 2015 election). Although it won parliamentary representation for the first time in history in 2015, the pro-Kurdish HDP conducts itself under the violent shadow of the militant PKK.
The separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) recently declared an end to its unilateral ceasefire begun in 2013. Although the Turks have a clear military advantage, the Kurdish minority also possesses a secret weapon: The fertility rate in Kurdish-speaking parts of Turkey is higher than in the Turkish-majority regions. The Kurds may emerge as the Turkish Islamists' main rivals in the not-too-distant future simply by having more babies.
There are, moreover, sociopolitical and demographic reasons to anticipate that both Islamists and Kurds will perform better in any future Turkish election. From a political perspective, Turkey is becoming increasingly right-wing and religiously conservative. F. Michael Wuthrich of the University of Kansas' Center for Global and International Studies has demonstrated that Turkish voting bloc patterns have progressively shifted to the right from 59.8 percent in 1950 to 66.7 percent in 2011. This pattern, presumably still in progress, will work in favor of the AKP or any other political party championing Islamist-nationalist ideas. In 2015, Erdoğan boasted that the number of students studying to be imams rose from a mere 60,000 when his party first came to power in 2002 to 1.2 million in 2015. When those students reach the voting age of eighteen, marry, and have children, their pious families will likely form a new army of five to six million AKP voters.
But the Kurds also have their own demographic advantages. Presently, the total fertility rate in eastern and southeastern, Kurdish-speaking Turkey is 3.41, compared to an average of 2.09 in the non-eastern, Turkish-speaking areas. For his part, Erdoğan has urged every Turkish family to have "at least three, if possible more" children. But things are not moving as he wishes. The total fertility rate in Turkey dropped from 4.33 in 1978 to 2.26 in 2013. Unsurprisingly, it currently stands at 3.76 for women with no education and at 1.66 for women with high school or higher degrees.
Just like less-educated (and more devout) Turks grew in number and percentages over the past decades and brought Erdoğan to power simply by combining demographics and the ballot box, the Kurds may, therefore, emerge as the Turkish Islamists' main rivals in the not-too-distant future simply by using the same political weapon.
Turkey seems to be stuck between two unpleasant options: Erdoğan's increasingly authoritarian, de facto one-man rule or the same rule legitimized by a rewritten constitution. The sultan will not give up his ambition to raise "pious generations." But do Turks care how their country is trending?
Nearly half of AKP voters do not think they live in a democratic country but are happy to vote for the party anyway.
A recent survey by Kadir Has University in Istanbul suggests that a substantial number of Turks are fully aware of the current trajectory. The survey found that 56.5 percent of Turks do not think Turkey is a democratic country while 36.1 percent think it is. Similarly, 59 percent think that there is no freedom of thought while 33.1 percent said there is. A mere 9 percent of Turks think there "definitely" is a free press in the country although another 31.3 percent agree to some extent. These numbers leave almost 60 percent who are sure they no longer have these civil liberties.
More alarmingly, when narrowed down to AKP voters—49.5 percent according to the November 2015 elections—the study finds that these Turks do not care all that much about democratic values. Only 58.3 percent of those who vote for the AKP think Turkey is a democratic country; 56.7 percent think there is freedom of thought in the country, and 54.8 percent think there is a free press. In other words, nearly half of AKP voters do not think they live in a democratic country but are happy to vote for the party anyway, without blaming it for the democratic deficit. This is truly worrying for Turkey and, looking beyond Anatolia, for NATO (of which Turkey is a member), and the EU (to which Turkey aspires).
The country is being dragged into increasing levels of authoritarianism with few if any checks and balances. The opposition parties fail to impress the voters and show no sign of credibly challenging Islamist rule. An unresolved rift between a growing Kurdish population and a shrinking Turkish one has the potential to explode, especially as Kurds outside Turkey gain de facto independence. Meanwhile, a frightening number of Turks just do not seem to care that the representative, democratic republic bequeathed to them by Kemal Atatürk is becoming just one more relic in the junkyard of history.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow of the Middle East Forum. He has also written for the U.S. weekly Defense News since 1997.
 Hürriyet (Istanbul), Jan. 27, 2016.
 Reuters, Aug. 3, 2015.
 Al-Jazeera America (New York), Nov. 5, 2015.
 BBC News, July 20, 2015.
 Al-Jazeera (Doha), July 22, 2015.
 BBC News, Oct. 10, 2015.
 Emre Çetin, blog, Jan. 11, 2015.
 Ertuğrul Özkök, "The Turkish Public Is Afraid of the President," Hürriyet, Oct. 22, 2015.
 Hürriyet, Aug. 14, 2015.
 Today's Zaman (Istanbul), Dec. 30, 2015.
 Bianet (Istanbul), Feb. 10, 2008.
 Akif Beki, "Başkanlık 'federasyon'da tıkanıyor," Hürriyet, Jan. 7, 2016.
 Hürriyet, Jan. 20, 2016.
 Ibid., Jan. 11, 2016.
 The Washington Post, Jan. 15, 2016.
 U.S. News and World Report, Jan. 15, 2016.
 Birgün Gazetesi (Istanbul), Aug. 6, 2015.
 Taha Akyol, "Where to, CHP?" Hürriyet, Jan. 19, 2016.
 F. Michael Wuthrich, National Elections in Turkey: People, Politics, and the Party System (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2015), p. 30.
 Cumhüriyet (Istanbul), Sept. 28, 2015.
 Hürriyet, Jan. 3, 2013.
 A. Banu Ergöçmen, presentation, Hacettepe University's Institute of Population Studies, Ankara, May 11, 2015.
 Fox News, Feb. 13, 2015.
 Hürriyet, Jan. 27, 2016; "Eğilimler Araştırması 2015 Sonuçları Açıklandı," Kadir Has University, Istanbul.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Evenwel v. Abbott
on: April 05, 2016, 02:16:53 PM
Supreme Court Brings Back To Three-Fifths Slavery Formula
By DICK MORRIS
Published on DickMorris.com on April 5, 2016
The Supreme Court decision in Evenwel v. Abbott, harkens back to how our original Constitution enshrined slavery in power until the Civil War.
The Evenwel decision holds that states may apportion districts -- and presumably Congress can apportion Congressional representation -- based on total population rather than based on those actually eligible to vote. So now illegal immigrants, who cannot vote, are counted equally with voters in allocating legislative representation.
There is a terrible analogy between the Evenwel decision and the infamous three-fifths rule that was adopted to determine slave representation in the House of Representatives.
At the original Constitutional Convention, the northern and southern states wrangled over how to count slaves -- who could not vote -- in allocating congressional districts to the states. The South wanted its voting power enhanced so slave states could come closer to a majority in the House of Representatives and have more electoral votes in choosing a president (electoral votes are allocated by adding the number of senators and congressmen from each state).
The northern states relented and agreed to count each slave as three-fifths of a person in apportioning legislative seats. The South and the slave interest benefited enormously from the compromise.
So, as a result of the Supreme Court's decision in Evenwel, illegal immigrants are to be the modern equivalent of slaves in proportioning representation in Congress. Like slaves, these illegal immigrants cannot vote. But they are now to be counted in determining how many seats in Congress each state gets. These phantom voters have no more right to influence the composition of our Congress than the slaves did -- unless and until they can vote.
As Gary Willis explains in his book Negro President: Jefferson and the Slave Power (2003), the distortions caused by the three-fifths rule permitted the slave power to remain in ascendency. The Southern slave states had 47 House members in 1793 -- under the three-fifths rule -- while they should have had only 33. By 1812, they had 76 but should have been entitled to only 59. By 1833, they had 98 as opposed to the 73 they should have had.
Willis calls Jefferson the "Negro President" because it was the extra electoral votes that came from the three-fifths rule that let Jefferson eek past President John Adams in the electoral college in the election of 1800. In that contest, Jefferson won with 73 electoral votes to Adams' 65. But had the Electoral College votes only reflected vote eligible citizens, and excluded the three-fifths rule, Adams would have won.
This odious comparison illustrates the injustice of using illegal immigrants to apportion power but not giving them a voice in how it is used. Either make them citizens and count their votes or leave them out of apportionment.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The case for Kasich
on: April 05, 2016, 11:51:29 AM
ll of a sudden the two Republican presidential front-runners seem unnaturally preoccupied with the guy in third place, and they’re teaming up to demand that John Kasich drop out. Why not let the voters decide, as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz otherwise like to say?
“Every day John Kasich stays in the race benefits Donald Trump,” the Texan said late last month, and over the weekend his campaign put up attack ads on Wisconsin TV accusing the Ohio Governor of cronyism. The Badger State has also been carpet-bombed with Cruz mailers challenging Mr. Kasich’s mostly excellent economic and fiscal record.
Mr. Trump is even more offended by Mr. Kasich’s existence. “If I didn’t have Kasich, I automatically win,” he said at a Sunday rally. The businessman added to reporters in Milwaukee on Monday that Mr. Kasich “shouldn’t be allowed to continue, and the RNC [Republican National Committee] shouldn’t allow him to continue. . . . He doesn’t have to run and take my votes, because he’s taking my votes, and he’s not taking Ted Cruz’s votes, he’s taking my votes.”
Mr. Trump’s understanding of democracy is unusual—candidates don’t own voters, and the party committee doesn’t dictate nominees. But he and Mr. Cruz do share a self-interest in trying to drive Mr. Kasich to the sidelines.
Mr. Trump is the only candidate left with a limited mathematical path to the 1,237-delegate majority to win the nomination before the July convention, and if he loses in Wisconsin on Tuesday Mr. Trump must win about two-thirds of the remaining bound delegates in 17 states. Mr. Kasich has more political appeal than Mr. Cruz in the southern New England and mid-Atlantic states that are more suburban and moderate. If Mr. Trump can threaten his way to a two-man race, he could get to 1,237.
As for Mr. Cruz, he’d have to sweep nearly every remaining primary to get to 1,237. He also knows Mr. Kasich has a better chance than the Texan does of denying Mr. Trump delegates in states like Pennsylvania and Maryland that vote on April 26. But Mr. Cruz wants to drive Mr. Kasich out of the race before the convention even if it means running a greater risk that Mr. Trump can get closer to 1,237. Mr. Cruz wants Mr. Kasich out now because he figures the delegates in Cleveland will choose Mr. Cruz if the choice is down to him and Mr. Trump. But if Mr. Kasich is still an option, the delegates might favor him as a better November candidate.
Mr. Kasich defeats Hillary Clinton by 6.3 points in current head-to-head polls, according to the Real Clear Politics average. Mr. Cruz loses by 3.1 and Mr. Trump by 10.8. Changing these polls would require gut renovations of the Trump and Cruz public images that will be hard for either to execute.
Mr. Kasich did the public service of winning Ohio’s delegates—with which Mr. Trump might have locked up the nomination—and he deserves a chance to see if he can win Pennsylvania or pick up delegates in the East and California. He has no hope of reaching 1,237 delegates before the convention, but what Messrs. Trump and Cruz really fear is that the convention might want to nominate a potential winner.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "C" is for Corruption
on: April 05, 2016, 11:41:37 AM
‘C’ Is for Corruption
The Clintons are the Brazilianization of American politics.
By Bret Stephens
April 4, 2016 7:18 p.m. ET
Postcards from yesterday’s countries of the future:
Brazil: President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party faces impeachment on charges of cooking government books. Corruption investigations are ongoing in cases involving former President Lula da Silva and the presidents of both houses of Congress. Inflation is in double digits and the economy contracted by 3.8% last year.
In 2009, the Economist magazine praised Brazil for “smart social policy and boosting consumption at home,” predicting its economy would overtake Britain’s after 2014.
Turkey: Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Washington last week, where the Turkish president’s security detail made diplomatic history by beating up protesters outside his speech at the Brookings Institution. A 2013 corruption scandal, implicating dozens of members of Mr. Erdogan’s ruling AKP party, including two of his children, fizzled after the government purged 350 police officers investigating the affair.
In 2009, Hillary Clinton described Turkey as “an emerging global power.” Financial Times columnist Philip Stephens (no relation) gushed that Turkey “sets a powerful democratic example to the rest of the Muslim world.”
China: A leak of 11.5 million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca—instantly dubbed “the Panama Papers”—implicate relatives of President Xi Jinping along with other top officials of sheltering fortunes in offshore tax havens. Mr. Xi is supposed to be leading an anticorruption campaign.
In 2009, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote of the “great advantages” of China’s “one-party autocracy,” which he praised for being led by “a reasonably enlightened group of people.”
The Panama Papers have also exposed billions in assets belonging to close friends of Vladimir Putin, which isn’t surprising, along with revelations that the first lady of Iceland owned an offshore holding company, which sort of is. Other boldfaced names in this sludgy mix of shell companies include Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Argentine President Mauricio Macri, the children of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and even the late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Everyone mentioned here denies wrongdoing, including the Mossack Fonseca firm—founded by the son of a onetime Waffen-SS officer who sought his fortune in Panama after the war. And everyone is entitled to a fair presentation of the facts, if necessary in court.
But nobody can be surprised by any of this. And nobody should look away from the central lesson of the scandal, though they’re trying. To wit, the story here isn’t about tax evaders and offshore accounts, deplorable as they may be. It’s about public policies and incentives that make a career in politics an expedient route to personal enrichment.
The point is illustrated by Brazil, where state-owned oil giant Petrobras sits at the center of the multiplying corruption scandals. The former chairwoman of Petrobras was Ms. Rousseff, whose main qualification for the job—she’s also a former Marxist guerrilla—was her reputation as an aggressive party hack. She has not been accused of using her position for personal enrichment, but Lula is under investigation for accepting Petrobras kickbacks in the form of a luxury apartment and other goodies. He denies the charges.
Meanwhile, Petrobras last year estimated its corruption-related losses at $17 billion. At least 57 Brazilians are being investigated for using Mossack Fonseca to open 107 offshore companies. Throughout all this, the ruling party’s explicit economic agenda is to build “national champions” like Petrobras through the use of a state-owned “development bank” and other government subsidies.
What’s true of Brazil is true of China, and of Russia, and of every other regime where political power or influence dictates the direction and pace of investment. That’s why it was hard to take seriously a decade’s worth of boosterism about the so-called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) as the countries of the future. Kleptocracy is not a form of sustainable development.
Which brings us to Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee and—if Republicans nominate either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz—likely the next president of the United States. Mrs. Clinton’s email arrangements are supposed to be the scandal that will fell her, but what ought to frighten Americans is the way the Clintons mix money and power in the black box of their eponymous foundation to award themselves more of each.
This is the Brazilianization of American politics, albeit with more legal finessing. But the stench is the same, and it’s why so many Americans, Democrats included, instinctively recoil at the thought of another Clinton presidency.
So far the Panama Papers seem to have netted few Americans, which may say something about the fundamental probity of the U.S. system. Nothing ordains that it should last forever. “C” is also for Clinton.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential
on: April 04, 2016, 02:46:03 PM
By Reid J. Epstein
Updated April 4, 2016 11:18 a.m. ET
WEST ALLIS, Wis.—With a potential loss looming in Wisconsin’s Tuesday primary, Donald Trump’s path to clinching the Republican presidential nomination ahead of July convention is increasingly narrow.
Making the climb to the 1,237 delegates required to clinch the GOP nomination tougher for the front-runner are states where the local GOP doesn’t bind delegates to candidates: Delegates from North Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming aren’t required to back a specific candidate, nor are 54 of Pennsylvania’s 71 delegates. Heading into the Wisconsin vote, Mr. Trump must win two-thirds of the remaining bound delegates in other states to clinch the GOP presidential nomination on the convention’s first ballot, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.
Regardless of the results Tuesday in Wisconsin, Mr. Trump can’t clinch the GOP nomination before June 7, when California and four other states complete the party’s nominating calendar.
Mr. Trump’s steep path to 1,237 delegates drastically increases the likelihood of a contested Republican National Convention in July.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SERIOUS READ: How Middle Eastern States Consolidate Power
on: April 04, 2016, 02:23:03 PM
How Middle Eastern States Consolidate Power
April 2, 2016 | 12:56 GMT Print
Selim III, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire in 1789-1807, holds court in front of the Gate of Felicity at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. (Wikimedia Commons)
Editor's Note: The Global Affairs column is written by Stratfor's editorial board, a diverse group of extraordinary thinkers whose expertise inspires rigorous and innovative thought in our analysis. Though their opinions are their own, they inform and sometimes even challenge our beliefs. We welcome that challenge, and we hope our readers do too.
By Kristin Fabbe
Commentators speculating on the chaos engulfing the Middle East almost inevitably point to the Sykes-Picot Agreement as its underlying cause. The artificial borders laid down by the colonial-era deal, the argument goes, primed the region for ethnic and sectarian conflict. At some point the borders would have to be redrawn, and when they were, the process was bound to be painful. We need only look at Syria's drawn-out conflict and growing calls for its partition to see that.
But artificial borders are only part of the Middle East's problem. Equally important, though far less understood, is the legacy of the Ottoman Empire and the lasting mark it made on how Middle Eastern states consolidate power. The Ottoman Empire served as the precursor to the modern nation-state for much of the region. At its peak, it spanned from North Africa to the Persian Gulf's periphery. However, Ottoman rule was radically different than that of its early European counterparts or the modern governments that followed it, in part because of one of its defining features: the millet system.
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In what was essentially a loose and informal federation of theocracies, the millet system created a network of legal courts that allowed non-Muslim minority groups to rule themselves with little interference from their Ottoman rulers. It emerged, in some ways organically and in others by design, as a means of managing the complexities that came with governing the empire's many and varied religious groups. Christians, Muslims and Jews alike were given a large degree of religious and cultural autonomy, and many religious elites held high economic and administrative posts in the empire.
As centuries passed, the millet system molded local societies and governments around religious identity. The traditions of religious authorities became institutionalized in many places, and people widely began to defer to them. Meanwhile, religious elites enjoyed a fairly high level of autonomy and became deeply embedded in the institutions that today fall under the purview of the nation-state, including legal, administrative, educational and social welfare structures.
At first, the millet system proved helpful in governing the Ottoman Empire's diverse subjects. But in the 18th and 19th centuries, the empire's military prowess began to slip relative to its neighbors, and its rulers were put on the defensive. Gradually, it became clear that if the Ottoman Empire were to survive at all, it would have to adopt some of the strategies used by its Western rivals to organize its military and society.
The resulting reforms, known as Tanzimat, aimed to fundamentally reshape the Ottoman state's relationship with its subjects. Previously, the empire's citizens had never been granted rights beyond those guaranteed to Muslims by Islamic law and those that came with the protective status of the millet communities. But in 1839, Sultan Abdulmecid declared that all of his empire's subjects — both Muslims and non-Muslims — also had secular rights that transcended any religious, ethnic or linguistic affiliation. In addition to this borrowed model of secular citizenship, the Tanzimat more clearly defined the millet system and formalized the distinct religious communities. The paradoxical result was that the reforms, originally intended to bridge religious divides, actually reinforced existing fissures within society.
Religion and State: Partners or Competitors?
When the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1923, the distinct religious identities and rifts solidified by the millet system and Tanzimat reforms did not dissolve with it. Instead, they were handed down to the states that emerged in the empire's wake, creating serious obstacles to state-building and modernization efforts. Religious elites could be either potential competitors or powerful allies, or both, to governing officials trying to assert their authority.
In general, the region's new states tended to follow one of three paths as they consolidated power. The first usually occurred in states that European powers failed to occupy and that had a single dominant religion. In these circumstances, states usually just co-opted the religious majority's institutions and leaders in an effort to centralize their authority. In doing so, piety and nationalism were fused into an "official religion," thus weakening religious institutions, domesticating religious rhetoric, binding religious authorities to the state and facilitating the state's growth. In Turkey, for instance, even as Islam was pushed out of politics, banners advocating Ataturk's reforms hung between mosques' minarets. Secularizing reforms were more about asserting the state's control than a genuine attempt to separate religion and state. In the long run, these states were more stable, but they bred exclusionary policies and forced migrations that were largely based on religion. For the religious minorities left behind, inequalities became entrenched. The states, now more homogenous and constantly skeptical of outsiders, often relapsed into authoritarianism.
Alternatively, some states — usually those with colonial occupiers and a solid religious majority — took a hands-off approach to religion instead. Such states tried to sidestep religious institutions as they consolidated power, often accommodating religious minorities (at least initially) in the process. Because this meant religion was not weakened by early cooptation, governments later found it difficult to nationalize the institutions of the biggest religions. Leaders of the dominant religions often positioned themselves in opposition to the state, fueling radicalization and undermining any attempt to create an official Islam friendly to the government.
The final path Middle Eastern states followed was to rely heavily on alliances with religious minorities while quashing other religious rivals. This outcome usually occurred in places ruled by colonial powers and riven by religious factionalism. European colonizers would often resort to indirect rule, designed to prevent nationalist uprisings and maintain minimal authority by forming strategic partnerships with privileged minority groups, such as certain Christian sects in the French-held Lebanon. More often than not, this gave rise to repressive minority regimes, which in turn led to sectarian strife, militia politics and attempts by third parties to meddle in domestic affairs. All impeded efforts to create strong national identities and establish state sovereignty, while at the same time empowering non-state actors with religious agendas.
Unstable States Make for an Unstable Region
Given these historical patterns, it is no wonder that Middle Eastern states today seem helplessly stuck between two extremes: religious radicalization and state-sponsored discrimination. Nor is it a surprise that the consequences of their internal governance have not remained confined within their borders.
In all three types of states, instability within generates instability without. For one, political leaders rarely have a secure hold on power, and when they feel particularly threatened, they often turn to ethnic, religious or national identities to bolster their legitimacy and improve their chances of survival. This tactic works not only within a single state but also among many. Indeed, politicized identities lie at the heart of three current Middle Eastern conflicts: the dispute between Israel and the Arab world, the competition between Shiite Iran and its Sunni rivals, and the thorny Kurdish question spanning Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Even the region's comparatively "stable" states, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, have exploited religious and ethnic discord outside their borders to gain influence at home and abroad. We need only look at the ongoing civil wars in Iraq and Syria, or at Hezbollah's activities on the Israel-Lebanon border, to see evidence of regional powers becoming entangled in their neighbors' strife.
Thanks to the lasting imprint of the Ottoman millet system and the colonial-era practices that followed it, political development and regional stability in the Middle East have become chained to the vagaries of identity politics. But identity politics are a double-edged sword, both a crutch by which states govern and a wedge by which they are driven apart, and they are more likely to prevent stability than create it.